Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, aka Muhammadi Sulton (file photo)
DUSHANBE -- A court in Dushanbe has sentenced a retired security officer and journalist who is a native of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan to seven years in prison amid an ongoing crackdown on activists from the volatile region.
Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov's relatives told RFE/RL that the Sino district court sentenced the 72-year-old, who is also known as Muhammadi Sulton, on September 13 after finding him guilty of public calls to forcibly change the constitutional order and insulting a law enforcement officer via media or the Internet.
One of the relatives called the sentence "too harsh" for an elderly person, whose guilt was "not proven." It remains unclear what the charges against Mavlonazarov, who was arrested in mid-June, stemmed from. Mavlonazarov started his career as a journalist in the 1970s at a Soviet-era youth newspaper and later became an officer of the State Security Committee (KGB) in the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, where he served for more than 25 years. In recent years, Mavlonazarov was very active on Facebook, writing posts that often criticized the government of the Central Asian country.
Some of his recent articles were critical of the government's so-called counterterrorist operation conducted earlier this year in his native Gorno-Badakhshan.
Deep tensions between the Tajik government and residents of the volatile region have simmered since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Protests are rare in tightly controlled Tajikistan, where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.
The latest crackdown on activists in Badakhshan followed protests initially sparked by anger over the lack of an investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional Governor Alisher Mirzonabot and Mayor Rizo Nazarzoda of the capital, Khorugh.
The rallies intensified after one of the protesters, 29-year-old Zamir Nazrishoev, was killed by police on May 16, prompting the authorities to launch the "counterterrorist operation." The escalating violence in the region has sparked calls for restraint from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Western diplomatic missions in Tajikistan, and human rights groups.